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Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Sony Raises Earnings Outlook, as Camera Chips, TVs Fuel Recovery

Sony Corp lifted its full-year operating income forecast on Tuesday, expecting to book its highest-ever profit due to strong sales of image sensors used in smartphones and other devices.

The Japanese firm forecast profit of 630 billion yen ($5.57 billion) for the year ending March, from 500 billion yen estimated three months ago.

Sony also said profit for July-September jumped to 204.2 billion yen from 45.7 billion yen a year earlier.

Demand for high-end 4K televisions and wider use of camera chips helped to make up for slower growth in the PlayStation business and a lack of blockbuster films.

Sony's semiconductor division, which include sensors, is forecast to post profit of 150 billion yen, up 20 billion yen from an earlier estimate and a reversal from last year's loss, as it recovered from earthquake damage sustained a year ago. Apple, Xiaomi and other smartphone makers are outfitting their latest models with two cameras on the back of each device. This lets software compare two pictures to improve photo quality and gauge depth to perform basic AR functions.

A business overhaul refocusing on image sensors and games under Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai has moved Sony out of a decade of doldrums and boosted the firm's stock price to nine-year highs.

Sony has been boosting investment in artificial intelligence to catch up with Amazon and Alphabet's Google.

Sony this month unveiled its Xperia Hello! voice-activated communication robot. It is also widely expected to revive robotic pets, similar to robotic dog AIBO that went on sale in 1999.

The company is also aiming to lead the budding virtual-reality (VR) market by gelling with the content portion of the group's business such as music and film.

In sensors, the business is trying to crack into the automotive market, where demand for 3-D sensors is rising as an increasing number of cars are mounted with autonomous driving functions based on sensing technologies.

Here's how Sony's other divisions are performing:

  • The company boosted its operating profit forecast in consumer electronics to 76 billion yen from 58 billion yen, driven by stronger sales of televisions.
  • In games, operating profit during the quarter rose to 55 billion yen from 19 billion yen a year ago. Revenue rose 35 percent to 433 billion yen. PS4 sales accelerated to 4.2 million units in the quarter, up from 3.9 million from a year ago. Sony increased the forecast for unit shipments this year, to 19 million from 18 million.
  • In films, Sony generated 244 billion yen in revenue during the latest quarter, partly due to "Spider-Man: Homecoming," which was released in early July. The reboot of the Marvel superhero series generated $117 million in sales in North America on its first weekend, beating Sony's own forecast for $80 million. In May, Sony appointed a new head of the division after taking a $1 billion writedown on poor DVD sales and a lack of hits.
  • In music, the success of the smartphone game Fate/Grand Order was notable. The title, which is based in Sony's music division and not under PlayStation, was the main catalyst for the rise in the unit's full-year operating profit forecast to 94 billion yen from 75 billion yen. Sony's partnership with Spotify Ltd. also contributed, with revenue from streaming services climbing to 53 billion yen, up from 31.5 billion yen a year ago.

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